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Mindful Eating

Mindful eating will not only change the way you eat, it can change your whole approach to life. Your body image, self-esteem, health, relationships and confidence can all be transformed when you develop a new relationship with food and eating. You can learn how to enjoy your food more so that you feel satisfied and full and put an end to cravings!

Did you ever sit down to eat a meal and then suddenly realize that your plate is empty? You barely remember eating or even how the food tasted.

Did you enjoy your meal? Where were you during the meal? Your mind was elsewhere and your focus was on something completely different from the joy of eating and providing nourishment to your body. Your mind and body are not connected during such an important bodily function. How can your food get digested properly if your mind is not aware of or involved in the eating process?

After eating your stomach may be full, but you really don't feel satisfied. You want something else to fill the void that mindless eating creates. Establish a stronger mind and body connection and develop a mindful eating practice so you can enjoy and feel satisfied after every meal. You will feel healthier and happier.

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful Eating Meditations

Mindful eating is the act of slowing down and being consciously aware of each action we take while eating. We are fully in the present moment and totally aware of each movement and sensation, such as: how the food looks and smells, picking up a fork or spoon, bringing the food to your mouth, putting it in your mouth, how each bite tastes, how the texture feels, chewing, swallowing, etc. We use all our senses to develop and explore our relationship with food. It is a mindful meditation practice that we can integrate with eating.

Eating mindfully is not about control and willpower. In many diets and health programs the focus is on food restrictions, portion control, and self-control. This practice allows new habits to form through acceptance and awareness. You become aware of your thoughts and reactions to food. Your learn how to become non-reactive to negative thoughts and feelings that can cause over-eating. With a non-judgmental approach to your habits and feelings, you can accept them with compassion and let them go.

A mindful eating meditation practice takes a different approach to weight loss. The focus is not on "loss" of weight or on the "loss" of your favorite foods. With this practice, you will begin to enjoy food more and feel satisfied as you make choices that feel good for your body. You will be able to enjoy one or two pieces of chocolate and feel fully satisfied. The fear of eating the whole bar will be gone as your cravings disappear and you gain control.

Many practitioners find that they are satisfied with less food than before. This meditation practice may help you discover and overcome false beliefs that are affecting your weight.

Mindful Eating

Gratitude is a spiritual practice and it is an essential part of the practice of mindful eating. Make it a habit to feel thankful and grateful for each meal as you sit down to eat.

Think about how pleasing and inviting the food looks and smells. Think about where it came from and all the energy that was required to bring it to your plate. Is it a gift from Mother Earth? Think about the nourishment that it will provide your body. Take a moment to feel complete and utter gratitude before you begin to eat. Appreciation for your food will help you make a more powerful and meaningful connection to food. Learn more about how to develop an Attitude of Gratitude

When we eat mindlessly or without focus, we often feel full after a meal, but we are not satisfied. This leads to cravings and wanting to eat more as we search for something to satisfy our hunger. Mindful eating helps you make choices that will leave you feeling satisfied before you are full. This is one of main benefits of eating mindfully.

As you explore different foods and experiment with different tastes, textures and colors, you will learn which ones are satisfying and pleasing to you. For example, you may find that low calorie foods may fill you up, but not satisfy you. However, you are an individual and only your body can tell you what's right for you.

"Dear God, please feed my hunger and restore my right mind." -- Marianne Williamson from A Course in Weight Loss: 21 Spiritual Lessons for Surrendering Your Weight Forever

How to Eat Mindfully

Give your full attention to the act of eating and drinking. Use all your senses to be fully aware as you develop a healthier relationship with food. Pay attention to what is happening in your body as you eat and how your mind is reacting. Notice your thoughts but do not react to them. They want to take you away from the present moment. Observe your thoughts without criticism or judgement and then return your awareness to eating and the present moment.

Notice if you feel satisfied or full after each bite. If not, keep eating. Many of us grew up with the idea that we must not waste food. We have to finish everything on our plates. Because we bought into this notion from our well-meaning parents, we feel guilty if we discard any food. If this has been your experience, consider what the bigger crime is: using our bodies as a trash can or discarding something we don't need? If it is a substantial amount of food, you can always store it for another meal or snack. An essential aspect of eating mindfully is to stop eating when we are satisfied even if there is still food left on our plates.

The following video will guide you through a mediation for eating mindfully. You may find it helpful to get you started on your mindful practice.

You can integrate a mindful eating practice in many ways. You can practice with a snack or a full meal. You can practice when you are having a cup of tea or coffee. Do you drink coffee or tea while working on your computer or reading a book? Try this simple, but effective practice: 

Use both hands to pick up your cup. Each time you take a sip, make it a ritual. Place your full attention on drinking your beverage. You are not looking at the computer screen or thinking about what you were reading. You are fully aware and all your senses are involved in the experience of drinking, tasting and swallowing.

This gives your mind a break from your work or your book and brings your awareness to the present moment. You may notice that this practice helps to improve your concentration as your gain more control over your thoughts. You may also notice that you thoroughly enjoyed your favorite beverage and perhaps you will be satisfied with just one cup as you were totally present and enjoyed every sip. 

You may also want to try a full mindful eating meditation. This type of meditation would be performed at a meditation conference or retreat. Eating this way is quite time consuming and not practical for every day, but it may be helpful to you to practice occasionally when you have the time.

However you decide to integrate eating mindfully, keep the following tips in mind.

Tips for Successful
Mindful Eating Meditations

  • Don't eat meals while you are doing something else, i.e. watching TV, checking emails, working, reading, etc. Provide an environment that allows for total concentration.
  • Make a ritual of each meal when you have time. Set the table as if for a king or queen.
  • Place utensils down between bites and only pick them up when you have finished chewing and have swallowed your food. As you are eating more slowly, you may find that you feel better as food is digested better.
  • Choose foods that are pleasing to you and nourishing for your body.
  • Notice your food likes and dislikes without judgment or criticism. Accept your individualism with compassion.
  • Notice flavors and textures as they come and go. Stay with the food you are presently tasting.
  • Be mindful of thoughts and feelings that want to take you away from the present moment.
  • Notice cravings and what message they bring.
  • Be aware of the sensations of physical hunger and cravings. Can you distinguish these different sensations?
  • Notice how the food feels in your stomach. Are you feeling satisfied or full? You will need to decide when to stop eating. It should not necessarily be when your plate is empty. You may find you are satisfied with less food.
  • Explore what you need to feel satisfied. Experiment with different foods. When your body and mind are united, you will discover the answer.

"Our deepest self-knowledge resides in the body, which a great deal of the time does not speak the same language as the mind." -- Annemarie Colbin, Food and Healing

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Other related articles:

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Overcoming False Beliefs That Are Affecting Your Weight

Running and Meditation

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